...get used to it.
“If you realize that all things
change, there is nothing you will
try to hold on to.”― Lao Tzu, Tao de Ching
Seems like a very long time ago that I was in Iceland hoping for Northern Lights, chasing the beauty of impermanent bright wisps of light in the northern sky. I was bundled up in a parka, eating pastries and mesmerized by spectacular landscape, but it has only been a year. Yet, wow what a year the last 12 months have been. I returned from the excitement of travel to the lockdown of uncertainty and fear as the world became dominated by COVID19. Staying isolated at home became suffocating and I eventually found my own personal freedom in riding my bike around downtown Southern Pines. A place that is typically filled with people and cars, strollers and bikes, trains and sirens from sun up to 2am. Never before had I seen Broad Street completely empty and it was a bit like a scene from an Apocalypse movie. I began to enjoy riding right down the middle of the road. Not even stop signs could slow me down. I regularly visited my porch which was previously for decorative purposes only and became familiar with the different breeds of birds in my yard. Slowing down was a welcomed change, even in the midst of so much uncertainty. But, with the impermanent nature of all manifest things, I have found myself busy again. Downtown is bustling and although I still ride my bike, I must look both ways before crossing the street.
Impermanence, in terms of our pre Covid experiences, our during COVID experiences, all stages within and hopefully soon our post COVID world, has given us so many examples of acquiring gratitude for the things we took for granted before. Impermanence is a fact...impermanence of COVID, impermanence of joys and fears, and impermanence of human form... ours and of those that we love. Some of you already know this reality well. You have buried parents, spouses, children and friends. Others have not yet had to do so but have likely imagined. Just the thought of it may create a feeling of "I don't feel safe with that subject matter....I want to talk about something else”.
You’re not safe. You never have been and neither are your loved ones and neither is your job, or your relationship or your health ...as we all very acutely felt this last year. Even if you wear that mask and gloves and wash your hands a hundred times a day, as long as you inhabit this earth as a human with other humans...you are not safe. And I hope we can all find something relieving about that, so that we don’t suffer so much fighting the truth of impermanence. Finding security and safety is not the point of human interaction anyway. The work, is to live eyes wide open in the wisdom of uncertainty, in the truth of impermanence... and then to behave accordingly. To have gratitude for things and people and experiences before they change or leave or die.
So many wisdom teachings have pointed us toward this truth...
This is one of the most fundamental teachings of Buddhism. The Buddha taught
that the source of human suffering and discontent is that we crave and cling to
the things of this world under the mistaken view that they will last forever. But
Stoicism, as practiced by the Romans, is a practical philosophy for serenity.
There is only now. Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember
it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or
is impossible to see. The span we live is small—small as the corner of the earth in
which we live it. We chase after the future, and linger in the past, not realizing that
the future does not exist, and the past is unchangeable. There is only now. Don’t
lose sight of that fact, no matter how tempting it is to look back at past with
regret or nostalgia, or at the future with fear or anticipation. “Everything
changes, nothing is lost”. Some things are rushing into existence, others out of
it. Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake
the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity. In Ovid’s
Metamorphoses, Pythagoras says, “Omnia mutantur, nihil interit” Loosely
translated, it means, “Everything changes, nothing is lost”. As we face a world
that is always changing around us, we should remember this. Change is a
constant. It is neither good nor evil. It simply is. We can fight change, but it will
happen nonetheless. Better, by far, to accept change, and adapt.
Physics. Everything changes and nothing stands still.” — Heraclitus, a pre-
Socratic Greek philosopher, as quoted by Plato, “Everything flows and nothing
stays. Everything flows and nothing abides. Everything gives way and nothing
stays fixed. Everything flows; nothing remains. All is flux, nothing is stationary. All
is flux, nothing stays still. All flows, nothing stays”. This statement occurs in
Simplicius' Commentary on Aristotle's Physics, while some sources attribute to
Simplicius the coining of the specific phrase "everything flows/is in a state of
flux", to characterize the concept in the philosophy of Heraclitus, the essential
phrasing "everything changes" and variations on it, in contexts where Heraclitus's
thought is being alluded to, was current in both Plato and Aristotle's writings.
Taoism. “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold
on to.”― Lao Tzu, Tao de Ching
And lastly, from one of my favorite movies that never made it big, but should
have. “Enlightenment is not an attainment, it is a realization. And when you wake
up, everything changes and nothing changes.” — Dan Millman, American writer
of Way of the Peaceful Warrior
In short, impermanence is no new idea. Impermanence is a fact. Whatever you are experiencing right now, WILL change, so don’t get so wrapped up in fighting it or clinging to it, that you miss it altogether. Stop and take a breath. Look up at the sky and thank whatever great power you believe in, for this moment...exactly as it is. -Virginia